01/22/2021, 15.50
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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity celebrated despite COVID-19

by Melani Manel Perera

The dioceses of Colombo, Kurunegala and Jaffna celebrated a prayer service on Monday. Jaffna will continue until 25 January. Participation in celebrations was limited to 50 people.

Colombo (Asia News) – Christians in Sri Lanka are taking part in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which began on Monday, but other Christian denominations appear more involved in observing the event than Catholics.

The Archdiocese of Colombo held a prayer service on the first day, while the Diocese of Jaffna is holding prayer services for the whole week, from 18 to 25 January.

Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, few people from the various denominations could gather in prayer in Anglican and Methodist churches on Monday. The maximum number of participants was 50.

The dioceses of Colombo, Kurunegala and Jaffna held prayer services on Monday, but Jaffna will continue until 25 January, when the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends.

The theme of this year's Week is “Abide in my love and you will bear much fruit”, taken from John 15:5-9, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said.

“Most of the time, the Week in Sri Lanka is organised by non-Catholic Churches. We participate in the prayer service,” said an elderly Catholic priest, speaking to AsiaNews.

In the Diocese of Colombo, only one prayer meeting was held on the first day. “We are one in the Lord, we are Christians for your love,” sang the Christians in Colombo at the Anglican Christ the living Saviour Cathedral at 4.30 pm on Monday, the first day of the Week.

The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka and the National Catholic Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue organised the celebration, attended by a number of high-ranking Christian clerics, including Norbert Andradi, Catholic Bishop of Anuradhapura; Maxwell Silva, Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo; and Dushantha Rodrigo, Anglican Bishop of Colombo.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Anglican Rev Samuel J Ponniah, Archdeacon of Jaffna, said that prayers will be recited for the whole week in several churches.

“The prayer service together with the sermon will be conducted on behalf of all Christian churches in the Diocese of Jaffna,” Fr Samuel said. “The service starts at 5 pm and will last almost an hour. Only 50 people will be able to participate.”

“Five Christian denominations – the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the CIS Church, the Methodist Church, the Salvation Army – will sit together for the whole Week.

“We started Unity Week prayer meetings on Monday at the Salvation Army and the sermon was delivered by Rev Grace Devamani of the Methodist Church on the theme “We are called by God, you did not choose me but I chose you”, said Fr Samuel.

“We shall conclude the prayer for Unity on the 25th in the Anglican church. The Bishop of Jaffna, Justin Gnanapragasam. will deliver the sermon. On the 24th the prayer meeting will be at Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church and I will be the one to give the sermon.

“Tomorrow we will be at the Ashram in Mardaanamadam and the sermon will be given by CIS priest Rajkumar. Today in the Methodist Church of Puttur, Catholic Father Dayabaran will deliver the sermon.”

“We did not advertise the prayer service due to the epidemic; otherwise, we might have had a large crowd,” said Fr Samuel Ponniah. “We thank God for giving us a good chance to at least hold our prayer gathering during this pandemic situation.”

“God is light,” said Rev Maxwell Doss, director of the National Christian Council (NCC), at the start of the candle lighting ceremony.

“As an expression of our Unity in Christ, we can draw on the element of light in the central candle from where four heads of Churches will light their candles and go down the aisle lighting the candles of those present, so that in the end we can, in the splendour of Christ, pray to the Lord together.”

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